im·​pe·​tus | \ ˈim-pə-təs How to pronounce impetus (audio) \

Definition of impetus

1a(1) : a driving force : impulse
b : stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity
2 : the property possessed by a moving body in virtue of its mass and its motion used of bodies moving suddenly or violently to indicate the origin and intensity of the motion

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Impetus Has Latin Roots

You already have plenty of incentive to learn the origin of "impetus," so we won't force the point. "Impetus" comes from Latin, where it means "attack or assault"; the verb "impetere" was formed by combining the prefix in- with petere, meaning "to go to or seek." "Petere" also gives us other words suggesting a forceful urging or momentum, such as "appetite," "perpetual," and "centripetal." "Impetus" describes the kind of force that encourages an action ("the impetus behind the project") or the momentum of an action already begun ("the meetings only gave impetus to the rumors of a merger").

Examples of impetus in a Sentence

In a revealing comment, Mr. Updike says an impetus for Rabbit, Run was the "threatening" success of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the signature book of the 1950s Beat Generation, and its frenetic search for sensation. — Dennis Farney, Wall Street Journal, 16 Sept. 1992 But 1939 gave new impetus to the Western with the Cecil B. de Mille railway epic Union Pacific, John Ford's skillful and dramatic Stagecoach,  … and George Marshall's classic comic Western, Destry Rides Again. — Ira Konigsberg, The Complete Film Dictionary, 1987 … new techniques of navigation and shipbuilding enlarged trade and the geographical horizon; newly centralized power absorbed from the declining medieval communes was at the disposal of the monarchies and the growing nationalism of the past century gave it impetus — Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, 1984 His discoveries have given impetus to further research. the reward money should be sufficient impetus for someone to come forward with information about the robbery
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Recent Examples on the Web The French architect Jacques Rougerie has devoted his entire career to building underwater structures, citing Jacques Cousteau as the impetus for his pursuit of architecture and oceanography. Elissaveta M. Brandon, Smithsonian Magazine, "Jacques Cousteau’s Grandson Wants to Build the International Space Station of the Sea," 24 Aug. 2020 Protesters have used the shootings as the impetus to demand body cameras for police officers, and to call for bans on chokeholds and no-knock search warrants. Evan Casey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "15 seconds. 5 shots. Here's a timeline on how a fatal shooting in February set off a summer of protests and unrest in Wauwatosa.," 18 Aug. 2020 Lovullo cited the team’s struggling offense as the impetus for the decision. Nick Piecoro, The Arizona Republic, "Analysis: Urgency on display as Arizona Diamondbacks try to navigate rocky start to season," 1 Aug. 2020 The impetus behind the conditional use permits is tied to the loosening of restaurant COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for limited dining room and patio seating. John Benson, cleveland, "Lakewood Planning Commission approves applications for additional restaurant patio seating," 10 June 2020 Schott: From day one, the impetus for Starface was to normalize acne and create connectivity around this really universal experience, bringing optimism to an otherwise bleak space. Rachel King, Fortune, "The founders of skin care startup Starface on normalizing uncomfortable conversations," 31 Aug. 2020 Big companies quickly took notice of communities like Antonelli's, and was the impetus for Josh Rivera, USA TODAY, "Capital One, GoFundMe and others launch group to support small businesses through a consumer movement," 31 Aug. 2020 While the news seems bleak on the surface, perhaps history will reflect this period as an important impetus that yielded meaningful progress. Josh Linkner, Detroit Free Press, "Are we living through horrible times? Maybe.," 29 Aug. 2020 The nuclear industry was a major impetus for robot development. David Berreby, National Geographic, "The robot revolution has arrived," 18 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'impetus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of impetus

1641, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for impetus

Latin, assault, impetus, from impetere to attack, from in- + petere to go to, seek — more at feather

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Time Traveler for impetus

Time Traveler

The first known use of impetus was in 1641

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Last Updated

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Impetus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for impetus


How to pronounce impetus (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of impetus

: a force that causes something (such as a process or activity) to be done or to become more active
technical : a force that causes an object to begin moving or to continue to move

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